Balladeers: Jeremiah and Mona Enna of the Kansas City Culture House
2:45PM Mar 22, 2023
I'll turn it over to to Darrow. And Jeremiah and Mona to get started about how did you guys meet? Who are you? Tell us about your background tell us about the importance of worldview. Over to you guys.
Let me start about how we met. And that's kind of where our story together begins. We were in Estes Park, Colorado for a workshop, a conference of Christian artists. Do you know what year that was?
Most? Like 97 or eight? It was a long day. We're young and 97
Yeah. 97. Okay. And my wife, when she was in high school in college, she she was involved in ballet. And so she was not so much interested in the music part of the of the conference, but in the dance. And so we did the we went to the dance workshops, and we're enjoying that. And then this one, one lady got up. Name's Mona Hina. And who are you dancing with Mona?
We were dancing. We were there with a friend of ours, Tobin, James, choreographer. And we were dancing for her when she created that special concert on the side where we can do our own things as well.
Okay. But we remember I remember Mona and one someone. They were dancing together. And I turned to Marilyn. So this is exquisite. This is so different than everyone else. And we're just very, very knocked off our feet by what we saw. And I said to Marilyn, I wonder if they've had connection with Labrie. Because what you were doing was so beautiful. So excellent. So it stood out. And that night, we were going somewhere on a bus, I think it was, and Jeremiah and I ended up sitting next to each other and got talking. And I said, Have you had any contact with Labrie? And he said, Of course we have. We lit
up like most of we hadn't been in the states that long. And most people weren't kind of following in that thread, if you will, which will bring when it came to the arts.
Yeah. Well, the way what you did that day spoke of the kind of excellence and quality and beauty that LeBron talked about. Yes. So that's what made the connection in my mind and then to hear that you had been involved with with ELLs. Ellis father, Ellis Potter that he had mentored you. And why don't you go ahead and pick up the story there about who you are, how Potter impacted you and Bri impacted you and
what you're doing now. And we thank you. That was a great weekend. It was so great meeting you in Maryland. I remember Maryland said, Because Mona had really beautiful costume online. And Europe is different than the states etc. And so long as dance costume, you know, went down to the knee or something. And Marilyn was like, I actually saw your legs, you know? You're a dancer and it was okay. You know, it's just a funny moment. But we both monitors from Finland and I'm from the United States originally. But LeBron was a huge impact on me. And and once we got married Mona, but her own pastor in Finland, Johan tumbling was a huge impact on her so we kind of came together. But LS. He was on our board. We were in an arts group in Sweden. Great admission and he was on our board. And I came there as a 24 year old a total New Age miss. And LS with his background in Buddhism, the event of Buddhists for 16 years before the Francis Schaeffer actually led him to the Lord. You know, he was there meeting me in Sweden, and over time he just everything he said was like this fireworks going off in my head restoring my mind. And so Francis Schaeffer books relationship with ls our own conversations really led to Being able to understand the world and function in it in a healthy way, including the art, I was ready to give up the arts. I thought, No way. This is such a industry that's just not made for humans. I can't do this, you know. And if it wasn't for shape or explaining that the Christian worldview, the ideas of Christianity as well as the relationship function in a daily way, I don't I don't know that I wouldn't maintain being a Christian, let alone continued working in the yard. So what was your? Well,
my thing is, I grew up in a non Christian family, and with an abusive father and my parents marriage is terrible. So it's really kind of void, or any kind of insanity in the home. And the arts are really my escape from reality. But then, when I was 14, I went through their conservation program and reporting church and became a Christian there. I just had a profound experience. And some of my friends, I saw the information and my friends became Christian. And it was really my pastor Luhan looking at me, like he just came to me one day said, Why don't you dance for Jesus? And I was like, that there was no What are you dancing, or there was no kind of Performing Arts anywhere in the church at the time. So he basically just kind of gave me free rein pretty much and said, hey, here you go, be creative. And, yeah, so I don't know, I think it was just pretty natural for me, you know, in fighting that faith that my art was never in conflict for me.
And he lived out that the Christian worldview perspective, which is that there's just one world and we're also to be a part of it. And he helped all the young artists in his church resist creating a separate Christian bubble for their lives, their work, and he just got him out there and made it a part of their entire life. Yeah, he was
a bad relation was really like his passion. And so I think if he would go on mission trips to like communist Poland and Hungary, and these places planned,
they were smuggling Bibles in their dance clothes. Yeah, it wasn't in the little parent signup form, I think.
But yeah, he just sat here and I spoke to this marketplace and you guys who are paying your dance and singing or whatever, and you know, when you're younger, you develop that sense of fear yet. So.
Dara, do you remember the name Lech Walesa, the head of the Solidarity Movement? And
yeah, so I was really into,
you know, things. I went to school at UCLA, and I took different political classes along with my theater classes. And we're married, right, we're already married, and I'm looking through her photo albums as a kid. And there's a picture of Mona, with Lech Walesa, you know, after she danced and following and I'm like, wait a minute, like, you know, what are you doing with him? And she That's what I heard the stories about smuggling Bibles into the Soviet Union, you know, the politics. But back on topic, I think that for both of us, seeing that our spiritual life was a daily thing, a part of making decisions and our work, a part of forming in our relationship, a part of seeing reality as it is. I think that's what happened over time, and it shaped our art and pours on our work and how we do it. So we're in Kansas City. We have an organization called the Culture House, and it's a multifaceted arts organization. We have an educational program, so we have a K through 12 school with about 700 students after school programs. And then we have a college program, a small one with a bachelor's degree in dance. And then we have a professional division with a recording studio and summer Broadway series. And then Mona our most significant professional program is Mona is the artistic director for a dance theatre company called Sterling Dance Theatre. Sterling is her maiden name, and it has the second largest audiences for dance in Kansas City, and is seen as you know, part of the dance community and you know, one of the, you know, larger most The most influential companies in the city. So we're just so thankful we have we're surrounded with wonderful, wonderful people. A lot of young people working in the arts on all different levels. And it's, it's, we're really blessed.
How long have you been in the Kansas City area now? So 20 years,
Have we moved here in 1995? By these days?
Well, so I recall part of the story when you move there, you were as poor as church mice. And you were you were living in? What? Atlanta? Your brother's attic, or something like that?
Yes, we were we had $700 to our name. And that was no job. No, no, no. We had $700. That was like to buy furniture. I mean, we just, and we lived in my brother's attic, get a little bedroom in the attic. And I remember, you know, Mona's been like, it's always cold there. And it was like 105 degrees, and we're in the attic. And it was when we didn't have any friends, we did my brother. So it's kind of a for us we look at what we're doing now is quite a miracle. Because we just are amazed at what God has done with our little loaves and fish. And especially in the realm of relationships and young artists. And, you know, to go from that, to, you know, what we're working with today is pretty amazing, but also should be encouraging, because we just did what we did you know, we didn't, we didn't, we didn't probably had that.
Then you unpack the story a little bit about, obviously, you say, where you were 27 years ago, and what's going on now, the gap there. In a sense, it's a miracle that you could have gone from $700 in your pocket, living in an addict to all this stuff that's happening in Kansas now. Because of what the Lord has done through this journey in your life, can you tell us a little bit of the Well, we started working on this, and then this happened. And this.
Yeah, and that's, and I'm, I'm the talker in the marriage. So someone just turn your mic on and say, let Mona say something. But yes, and you know, I say it's a miracle. But that's only from the point of view of. We're just amazed. Yeah, that actually happened. Yeah, worst means that we're doing
so many plants that make plants but then God does something different. That's better. Yeah, yeah. But that's to say planning is bad. Planning is hurting. But
yeah, we're playing. But my point is that it wasn't a miracle in the sense that we don't know You know, what happened. And and so to answer your question, when we moved here, there was there was I would wish this God thing that happened right away, that made us feel very confident that there was a plan. And it was our second day here. We came here full of faith. So what people may want to know is we live in community with a bunch of 20 Somethings our friends in Sweden, we lived in the forest, we traveled around performing, pretty grooving. And but when I moved there was funny for the oldest person, this senior member was 29. So you can imagine the abundance of wisdom. It was pretty funny. And from all over the world, except for Antarctica. Yeah, we didn't have Antarctic on the maps. I don't. Here's our picture. Look at this. So this is a picture of when we were young, and you've got people from the African continent, and South American continent, of course, all the Scandinavian countries, it was probably greater Australia. So we have all these cultures. We're all living together, fighting together, all that. But as we lived and created, mostly dance theater, and street dramas, we've created street dramas for Youth With A Mission. And then we had our professional group. That's what we were in. We were always talking and asking the questions about okay, if the Bible is true, why isn't it affecting the arts and media world? And that was a question that we chewed on for six years, you know, As we traveled around Europe as the Soviet Union failed, and we got to meet artists and people from the East Bloc. So when we came to Kansas City, we had really spent time thinking about a reading shapers books, talking about the idea of reading the Bible, and really thinking about how ideas get into our common culture. So I think that's an important thing to say that we just didn't pop out of dance class or theater class, and we're ready to go. I mean, we can really spend some serious time invested time as artists, but also talking in the community about these ideas, and arguing like in a good way, arguing like really pushing the ideas. So when we landed here, we had a idea and a vision for how that would work. That you, we don't want to create a Christian organization, that's a bubble for Christians only. And that meant that we had to learn the language, we had to speak the language of being a human, and traveling and translating the gospel in human language. Because in America, especially why in Europe, so post Christian, but in America, especially, there was still a strong Christian language, and isolated language in church environments. So that's kind of some background on then what we came to do, and what how we came to do it. So we came to tell stories about humans and free beauty. And a lot of those human stories are fishing stories, like, you know, Darrow and Maryland came to see underground about the Underground Railroad. And we always say, when we perform it each year hear it's it's black history, but it's American history. And it's church history. And so we want to make sure everyone gets it, you know, this is not some isolated little bubble. It's for every human to experience. So that's kind of a background on like, what we came with. So I feel like we were really equipped. But it was years of equipping years and thinking years of testing years of, you know, I mean, we sounded young, we're in our 20s. But I was 30, when we moved here, and so we'd spent many years really working at the intellectual development and and not that we were professors on any level, but at least, you know, we had
been wrestling with the questions, not being afraid of the questions, wrestling with the questions. What does it mean to tell stories to a culture? Through the arts? Yeah. And enliven people? Yeah. And
it also became for us that we were testing the idea was like, we actually did something about it, you know, one of the most important things I think, for us was having a relationship to the community. So like, it was pretty amazing, no more, and we take a look at some very important doors for us, and really amazed us like the first one we got here when we got here. So we went to the university that had some really advanced programs here, and he had visited during Christmas time, before taking classes because we were syllables, dancing. And so then we have to remove events to say hello. And I had a teacher and she had some students, she was teaching a class and she was like, Okay, class. Oh, she asked me, she has Oh, you're visiting and we said, No, we've actually moved here. Hold on class. Because here's a video watch this video. She was like, Listen, I'm talking to my office and she basically offered us free space whenever we needed it. Classes and asked if we would teach them substitute teach for them. Yeah.
Oh, it was
not anymore. You know. It's something you know, we've had to pay rent. Do you have a favorite dance
studio? So we were given a dance that like one of the best in town right away.
God bless it. You know, we were having had all these relationships with the students there. So really, a lot of them are first dancer where it came from you okay, see.
So what I'm hearing you say you wrestled with the concept while you were in Europe, with your friends and try Blaine and, and when you came to the States, you have had some ideas now that had formulated and you wanted to begin to try to work them out.
Through art, yeah, through art. And
Andy wanted to connect to the community. That was your focus, rather than to focus on doing something in the church, your focus was to do something in the community, in the community.
So for example, when I first got to Sweden, and like I said, everyone was young. And I just, I would say, many people struggling with sight of super spirituality, right? So the mentality was, we're gonna do this show now. And the whole axis of the universe is going to shift because of this show. Or the, you know what I mean, like the thinking that I'm going to paint this painting or write this book, and everything is going to God's going to use it to just all of the world will turn to God. So that was kind of our thinking, like praying for that. And then after you pray for that a few times that it doesn't happen, you really realize something's up. And so over time, you know, as we traveled, of course, when you travel, and you know, this, you You arrived someplace, and you're this special guest, and there's a lot of, you know, hospitality, and that's exciting. And sometimes special guests does play a unique role in in being that catalyst. Yeah, that catalyst. But what we really noticed too, is that really what was needed was the long term commitment to a group of people, a community, also a spiritual life, that people living on the road, we're not doing well. And so when we came here was very much about that meant to a community, not just for them, but also for ourselves and our relationship with God. And yet, we came to not just talk about ideas, but to really, you know, to really test these things on the ground. And so, what we did the first couple of years, we did very few things, but we tried to make them. Excellent. So we did small performances, dance, live music, art gap, art exhibitions. We, I think we did three, they were in church environments. And we knew that the church in the states that there wasn't going to be a lot of audience for this, right. And we needed so we needed a few people interested in visual art and a few interested in dance, a few interested in theater, music would be bigger, but we wanted to kind of gathered them in a city so that we can then go out into the marketplace and the pride thing. So
is this the beginning of the Culture House? Is this the seat for the Culture House?
Yes. So the Culture House with an umbrella? Our umbrella organization, and Sterling Dance Theatre was one of its programs. I mean, it was just the two of us, of course. But that was framework, you know. And, and we did all the art forms or those art forms, because we didn't want it to be pigeonholed as a dance thing. And so we did small performances, and artists would come to us and we want to do something, too. And then, after probably two and a half years, then we started doing more public, in the marketplace, like in theaters and in Kansas City and venues that were more public. And well, you know, all I can say is you mentioned excellence early on. And you know, I mean, just to be frank are just to be kind of open. It's so funny, we talked about day two, we got the dance studios, etc. But day one, you know, we moved here with all this conviction. It only took 24 hours before we were like, what have we done? This is a disaster. We have no friend. We have nothing. We have no studios. I mean, it didn't take much to throw us off our game and make us feel, you know, hopeless. But we also didn't really demand anything from the Lord when it came to what we would do. Like we were just like, Lord, we're here. We're going to try these things. If I end up I mean, I worked I had a job. You know, I got a job to pay some bills. So, you know, eventually and we didn't demand an outcome. We just said, do what you want. And, and in fact, I mean, we were open to performing, for example, in churches and stuff. And in the beginning, we did a little bit. But the church was, again, the city really weren't interested. And they don't they aren't. They weren't interested in the arts in general. Yeah. And so we just kept having doors open in the marketplace. And so, as far as like the story of how it kept developing wise, in some ways, we went through the doors that were open. Yes. And some of us,
tell us about the culture house. I think we could spend a day talking like this. But there's a few things I want to hit in the timeframe we have. So tell us about the culture house, I remember when Maryland Lai came to visit and see the underground, the ballet underground, and we visited you at the Culture House. It was in the evening, I think, sometime between five and eight. And it was just like a beehive. I mean, there were so many different things going on. We're what is the idea of a culture housed? In Maryland, I came away from saying the same after seeing what that was what was happening there. Every large church and this wasn't a church, but every large church. That's how they could relate to the community. Yeah, create a culture house, I think you were just you are just invading as it were the community through this culture house. So talk a little bit about the concept and what was going on there.
There was a for years, over the years of starting this, and then our we have a for those listening, we have a 20,000 square foot facility. Right. And so what's in that facility, we have more sizable dance, and rehearsal halls. So rehearsal for theater and dance, but dance studios, we have two theater studios, we have a professional recording studio, we have an art space, it's one room for visual art, and we have private teaching about can private music teaching or so that's what's in the space. And then we have a nice little size lobby, where people can congregate and get to know each other. Yeah, we call it the new neighborhood, help people drive into their driveways in their garages, close the door, they don't even know their neighbors anymore. So we've created a space where people get to meet each other. It's there are not like scriptures on the walls. It's not an overtly religious environment at all. And that like visually, although there might be paintings or imagery or stuff that is symbolic, like right now we have a huge painting from Book of Kells on the wall, I mean, eight foot image of you remember the opening scene of book of pills with the boats and the water? Yes, yes. Okay, so we have that on the wall, you know, and that's a picture of course of St. Columba. So it's a story to tell us we give tours, you know, here's a picture and tell them who think Columbia is and the look of health. So that's our space, that's our physical space. And over the years, people would visit and go and say, Oh, I've never seen anything like this. I hadn't, right. Well, I kept kind of scratching my head. But television station did a featured story on us. And producers said the same thing. And I asked him, you know, I keep hearing that, but I'm not quite sure I understand why. And here's what he said. I think it might help. Explain it. He said, All the elements are known. But it's how you put them together that I've never seen. And I think that's explained. And so what we have is that slightly different is we have that broad range of the arts, dance, theater, visual arts, music, but we have the professional folks together in all those forms with the like children's programming and some college And so a child may be taking dance. And then they may be in a professional production. A professional music group may come in and do recording this has happened. And the artists that was here, this had her first child, and broke into tears when she found out we had diaper changing units for her, you know, in that, and then for the professional artists, we have like a nursery. And in dance, for example, if you have a female dancer and has a baby, her career's over, right. And so what we do is that they have young kids, they bring them with them, we take care of their kids and have a little program or mom or dad is in rehearsal, and their career and keep going. And then you then they see that children are valuable and, and that we've created. In fact, we've gotten a lot of attention for this, my Nana will ask us about that. And I'm able to say Christian worldview, I'm able to say, you know, isn't it interesting, that industry like dance, which is 80% women, does not consider the design of a woman. Oh, they create their environment. And so that's what we say, you know, God is designed women and men. And so we just considered God's design, in how we plan our programming. And so if you come here during the day, you'll see professional artists dancing, and music, producers recording music, and you'll see a bunch of little kids running around. And they might even like, one of the funnest things is when the kids go to see mom and dad do a little piece for rehearsal. So, you know, they come in, and everyone's like, Oh, and they pick up the babies. And of course, we lose a little rehearsal time, because you got to gotta squeeze those little days. And then the toddler sit, and they watch Mom and Dad, and they grow up with a great sense of confidence, because they're not in some isolated space away from mom and dad, you know, and they grow up with, and then they go upstairs to the art room and paint and draw. And so that kind of describes the environment of what the Culture House is. And we always say, publicly, you know, I wouldn't say the strongest language we use, specifically Christian is things like that we know that every artist or child that walks through our doors is created in the image of God, and is designed for a great purpose. And we're just privileged to be a part of see known for That's so great. You know, and so that way people know, we don't care who you are. But our approach is seeing you in a purposeful way. And wanting to see you increase your gifts and skills. So whether it's educational or in the professional,
I do a quick plug for the video on the Culture House. game I don't know if we can put this up on the screen later. But just you guys have a video on the Culture House.
Well, that video, you mean the one with I think the one you saw is one that's never done, and we had to take it down because there's a new one coming out.
Okay. Well just give a plug for that.
Yeah. Our website is just culture house.com. And we have to keep updating it because it changing and growing. But I think one of the things that we tell the artists here, yes, it's impressive, if you it is impressive. But in the kingdom of God. Here we're always like, it doesn't matter the scale. You know, we just want like, have a dancer. This is so cool. One of our students who did our training college program, she's in Urbino in Iran. She'd been there for four years now. And she teaches dance and, and I bet you I bet you we read romantic made the world while she was here. But she is there teaching dance she produced their pan with the community. You know, and I Have
dinner bill in her meal.
I mean, she's amazing. She's like 26. Now, I mean, she's just a rockstar. But it doesn't matter. I mean, that's dramatic. But if it's we also have dancers that put together professionals that don't feel called to the marketplace. And they put together fundraisers and nice phrase, through theater and dance and stuff, and just trying to fill the city with beauty and
fill the city with beauty. I hope all of you listening, heard that. We want to fill the city with beauty. That's right. We could talk about that for hours. Tell us a little bit about your training program. And tell us a little bit about how you are engaged with the community. Those two things and then we'll open it up to questions.
Sure. Well, the trade college program we've partnered with a school in Memphis, and that's another thing we partner partner partner partner partner reaches find anyone we can partner with, who are doing good things. In the City and beyond. There is a music College in Memphis, Tennessee, of visible music College, and we have our accreditation through them. And so right now, we just have a dance degree. But we're hoping we're working on a new facility a larger facility, because we want to expand it to theater and music and visual arts. We'd love to have a big visual art program too. So dancers audition, and they come here, we just set auditions for next year. And like any dance program, they live here and we've made it so they can get through and three and a half years. And we're working very hard so that financially that they would graduate without any debt. We have a big problem with someone going into $100,000 of debt or degree in poetry. It's really almost, it's sin. I mean to burden that artists with that. So we're trying to problem solve in that area. And we have guests artists, it's a wonderful program. It's small. But if anyone knows someone who dances third thing, they come in, they get Christian worldview. We teach courses, you know, behind me and everyone wanting you will see our Darrow Miller display books. But as I said, these books are dog eared because we use them in our program throughout the years, different ones that have been times and we have the original paper that Balladeers on. So Tim, what we really need though, is some figurines of Darrow and Maryland some action figures. Were ready.
I'm going to add it to my list for merchandise feature merchandise.
We need that action figures for sure. Other
to use the balladeer book, because I think you told me you got a bunch of copies and use it in this last class.
Yes. So because your books are often organized with questions, you know, after chapter that makes it very easy to incorporate this year, because we got them kind of midstream, I would take a chapter or two and focus on that area you focused on. Originally when we first met you when we got discipling nations, we would take the whole year to go through it. And because it was written to the reliefs, industry, what we would do is the art students a dance students would read it, answer the questions, then they had to translate it to art Industry, the Arts. Yeah. And that was a great intellectual exercise to do that. So we try to prepare our students whether they want to dance in church environments, or the marketplace or in Erbil, we try to get that intellectual foundation that biblical foundation and their thinking so we teach Christianity and the arts, Christianity and culture as well as all the conservatory classes they have to have a degree so that's the degree program. We have confidence that if we can kind of get over the the financial hump if you will to invest in that program, then it will really explode with growth because there is more interested in the arts in a Christian environment, or to the church world, but also because of excellence focusing on excellence and focusing on not growing debt? So that is something that we're hopeful for. And what was the second question?
The community when we were there for the Book of Kells, you told me about the integration that was going on with the community, and how
you named Casey,
the underground had such an impact on bringing you together? Yeah.
So we, a couple things are the high engagement and building relationships in the community. And the beginning, we started right at the beginning. And we would do things like, you know, partner with youth organizations, especially in underserved neighborhoods. And we would go teach there for free, we would have their students be able to come to us for free, whatever we could do to support the programs, Christian or not. We would partner with anyone doing what we discovered would be a good word. And that is grew over time. And then we had a person literally on staff to manage that. And we would teach in lockup facilities use lockup facilities, you prisons. And in fact, one of the things we did, like I named Mark started this year, the culture out. So we would go teach and all these youth organizations around the city, because what we found was, instead of just starting our own program in our building, all these great groups are doing things but they were all understaffed and underfunded. So we thought, why don't we just go and support their good work? So one guy in a really rough part of town, he's alone, right? older gentleman trying to do it all. So we would go cheap dance and music and theater there. Well, once a year, it was called super nova. day, once a year, all these groups including lockup, prison, youth prison, first, they would all come to the building. And we would have this blitz day with our own students from here, right. So we would invite the older students, so all kinds of neighborhoods and, you know, upscale neighborhoods and low economy, neighborhoods, and all this kind of stuff, all these cultures would come in the building. And they would have back to back an hour of dance music, then art, visual art, then some theater, and then lunch. And then, and they all came in. I mean, the first hour, so they just looked at each other, like afraid, nervous. And by the end of the day, they're all you know, great friends. And we would take our we have a very nice reporting studio. And like the kids from the lockup facility, they would come in, they would practice their songs, they would sing to basically karaoke tracks. And one year they did all these 50 songs like my girl, and I can't remember all the songs. And then they would come in and they would get the headphone things and the big $5,000 microphones, and they would record their songs and it just made their day. But it also opened up their imagination to new possibilities. Because in their minds, and in this is real, their minds they were going to be dead or in prison and dead by 21. So we would do things like that and partner and then underground about the Underground Railroad and oh eight who started that and it just brought in brought together the white and black community. And what we found out was a very unique way. And so then we repeated it again because people asked for it and again and then when they opened in 2011 our half a billion dollar performing arts center downtown we were invited to move the show into that center and has been there ever since. And
they expect us every year a diverse very highly diverse for this year. We had a wonderful visual artists when she did quilt quilting artists, Sandra Ravel and we hit it a school I have her work in the lobby. And then eventually, after the George Floyd incident, another organization was started again, I see that I'm on the border, and then was emerging a few ministries and found organizations that were doing good work. It's based on the faith in Jesus Christ and the unity that he can bring for everyone. And so now you like Casey is working in the city. They're they're very strongly President underground every year, and bringing a racial reconciliation and healing, but from the, from the point of view of the Bible, and Jesus, not a political perspective. And so some, some have said that underground has played a huge part in Kansas City not falling into a lot of the rioting and things.
That's wonderful. Mona, what would you say? What, what's on your heart to say to this group of people from different parts of the world who are artists, what, what's on your heart to say to them or leave with them,
just thinking about that. And one thing that I've learned over the years, is just, it's just about creating relationships, you know, going out going for it, you know, talking to people who might completely disagree with you. But, you know, when you, when you open that door, you know, and ask them questions and are interested in them. You know, it really is amazing how, suddenly there's a friendship there and an authentic conversation, that sometimes we're seeing, you know, by kind of like, the non patient issues, because they know who we are, and we are Christian, but then, you know, once you meet them and smile and talk to them, and we joke around with them, you know, it's, it's incredible how that kind of like falls away. And then another thing that's going on my heart, too, is just, you know, for like, especially young people, like, don't be afraid, you know, Jesus said, like, Do not be afraid, you know, pass into the deep the theater theatre, and, you know, just start somewhere, start small with enjoy it, you know, enjoy the small beginnings. And the adventure, because it's really for us, it's been an incredible adventure. Even if it's my it's, it's been absolutely exhausting and why things grow?
That's right. That's really true. Yeah. I let me I would just add one thing, we haven't. And I know I say this, because there are I know, this is a passion of yours. We have a phrase where we talk to the students, and we say that we are always pursuing ever increasing excellence. Yes, not from a rigid, oppressive. No, ever increasing excellence is kind of our thing. And our motto, if you will, with some of that work. And that's just has had an impact on the fact that if you are aiming at the marketplace, you really do want to make sure and wrestle with that don't recede into a bubble, like a church, everyone will applaud, like churches, the words couldn't grow at excellence, because you can do something so mediocre, and yet people cry, because you're usually working with the gospel. Well, you get no points working with the Gospel, Jesus will change people's lives, even if you do a poor job, right? So you have to have that encouragement from the church, you have to have it. Plus, you have to have people willing to tell you, you need to work harder.
And I think people in the community recognize excellence. And if you are producing excellence, that speaks very loud to them. So they appreciate they appreciate it. Let me summarize what are some of the things I've heard? And then Tim, maybe we can turn it over to the the folks that are here for their questions, right? What I've, what I've heard loudly is, think outside the box. Do things that, you know, do things that other people aren't doing. They can recombine the things that people are used to in new ways, so work outside the box, think outside the box, excellence, pursue excellence, always moving to the next level, as your abilities increase, bring beauty into the work you do into the community. Focus on the community, serve the community and support other ministries, whether they're Christian or not, that are in the community seeking to do good things. come alongside them and support them. Those are some of the things that I heard you speak about, are there any others that you would want to star? gonna
really hard? Right. I think maybe the only other thing I'd say is that you will make, of course everyone knows, especially if you're a certain age, you're going to make mistakes. There is I think there is a reactive attitude in the States. If something doesn't, if someone doesn't like you, it's because they hate Jesus, and you're being persecuted. And sometimes it's just because you did a bad job. You know, it has nothing to do with cheetahs. It's that you did a bad job. Yeah. But I would want to say that everyone gets this in the art world. If you write something, there's art, if you write a book, if you paint a painting, there's always going to no matter who you are, people just love to criticize and crush. I mean, we live in a Deaf culture. And people just love to bring people down. And so if you're a Christian person, and you're creating art, you're going out there, you just have to have your team, your cheerleading team, and expect to be attacked, and sometimes a criticism and be right, and help you improve. And sometimes it just because that's the way the world
will thank you. Let's see what questions we have from those who are have joined us today. Ma'am.
Okay, great. Yeah, we've got a number of questions. You may have seen some on the chat. I wonder, pure Allah? Would you like to unmute and ask some, you know, you want to start with one or two? And what kind of jumper thanks for your questions. Very
many. No, no,
that's good. You also are working with dance in Spain? Yes, you're working with some believers and some non believers and, and trying trying to figure that out. So tell it tell us start where you want to start.
Okay. So we we have an arts ministry here in Madrid, and we are trying to start a dance school. And we mostly do like competitions, Orban dance, and the different plays, but this is mostly competing in freestyle, and also choreography. So I wanted to ask you about if you were advising another artist school, about their curriculum, what will you say about where to start? Like, what's the important part? I know, it may be a big question, but wherever you whatever you wanted to say about that will be useful.
When we started our dance, school, I mean, we really like design the program and the classes based on Wi Fi quality, you know, things that you'd see in, you know, any school that's, you know, a good school. And then I think one thing that was important for us was that we had really good teachers that were Christian, so that they would share in like our values, you know, not, you know, especially if you're doing like, urban dance and things like that you don't get somebody appropriate music or movement that it's, it's, you know, it doesn't have to necessarily have like a Christian label on it. But it's just
their worldview. This goes back to a world
of sexualizing children for that right Which happens so much in life, especially hearing mistakes, you know, complications. So like knowing you know, the person who is teaching the classes. And if you don't,
I might add, if you don't have those people, like you don't have teachers who come from a Christian worldview, then the first step would be to explain the Christian worldview, to those teachers and say, you don't have they don't have to be Christians, you know, necessarily, but you're saying here at our school, these are the boundaries. This is the vision, and this is where we get it. And then then you have that opportunity to hopefully lead someone to reality. And then you might have a teacher that both embraces your passion and vision, and in teach. So that might be a first step. And then we when we started, we only taught classes that we were good at. We didn't try to do everything. Because, you know, we weren't, we wanted first to be able to, you know, do what we did? Well, I think those are kind of two good starting points. And if you're in Spain, now, I talked earlier about in America, how some Christians, you know, we're not being persecuted. Some are actually I mean, we do have, there are some persecution for being a Christian in the States. But there's also kind of a overreaction to this when we don't get our way of thinking of it as persecution. But in Spain, the Christian message is becoming much less welcome, both from the government in the marketplace. So being smart, and articulating the Christian worldview is especially important for you, so that you're rejected because of religious language in an urban dance class where it's not needed. But yes, you can talk about Jesus. Yes, you can talk about God. But you can also talk about dance moves. And the human body and the value of human body, I think, have a great opportunity to talk about ideas through your work, especially in the area of the beauty of the body, the dignity of women, the responsibility of men and how they take care of their bodies. All of that can be really cool and hip. Does that sound like something?
That was great, thank you.
I think that artistically, one of the so one thing I did not come up so much Darrow is we try to work on how we do our art and how we teach our classes as much as the actual end product.
Yes. You mentioned that in passing, I thought, oh, we need to jump on that. But
yeah, it's so important to tend to biggest impact and because for example, in dance, dance is an easy one to talk about, but theater too. But in dance, you have this the sexualization of everything. And now you have the hatred for the body, and the deaf culture. And so when dancers come here instead of just like children, but also professionals, instead of just wagging our finger at the ways of the world, we create a better offering. Yeah, it's another option. Another option that go like grown up here and dance. We do, you know, Cinderella at the end of the year, and every costume is handmade, you know. And so that means a girl who has a super skinny body and would normally be having to wear a baggy costume from a store. She has a custom made it but also girl that's larger. She gets a custom designed costume for her piece. They fit well. They feel beautiful. The guys get guy costumes, and they get male dance moves and things like that. And so it's less about wagging the finger as the kids are like, I want this shiny object because it's much more interesting and beautiful and inspiring. So we're always looking for ideas like that and how to make the process but and then personal integrity and character. We have I'm missing on my door, and I'm the boss so People read it. But it's not a scripture actually, it's a quote I've heard loves in Sweden, which is you can destroy with your character, what God is building with your gifts. You can destroy your character with goddess building with your disk. Because I feel like so often people neglect who they are and how they do things, because of their passion for the arts, and they end up undermining their own success. Because they are unwilling to confront their weakness, weaknesses of Eric.
I want to highlight something you said here. I speak about the phrase speaking prophetically to culture. And what you're doing is bringing an alternative, a kingdom alternative, a bright star, through your work into the world, and people can see this bright star and say, oh, I want this. And then all the questions get asked. So this is an opportunity to speak through your art and the way you the way you teach the way you train, the way you do your art, to speak prophetically to culture to create a bright star in the midst of the darkness.
Absolutely. And that's what the arts is so good at.
And I think for us, like when it comes to this, house, people come here, but what are the personal artists or just families with their kids? One of the things that they comment on always that the environment is so different than out there. Out there, you know, that it's, it's so welcoming and friendly. And a lot of these arts environments are not necessarily that, you know, in the harsh environment.
Yeah, it's very, the artists world is very harsh. And so we love artists, we love people. And mold is talking about the environment, the environment isn't because we tell everyone to be nice. Environment is because we believe that everyone is created by God. And we're excited to meet them. And that's, that's different than trying to like, be nice all the time, which is a pretty miserable effort.
See her laughing she knows.
Well, that was great. Thank you.
We've got some other feedback, some other questions. So I might just kind of read some of them off. And if you know, one or two of them land, we'll take time for those. And then again, we have this, this social media like community that we're getting started. And if some of you want to go over there afterward, that would be great. I know not everybody will. That's okay. You create your free account and access and, and set it up and jump in even somebody had submitted a question, kind of unrelated to, to where we're talking today. But I think it might be a good question that I'll pose over in the community, for all of you from various backgrounds to kind of, you know, give your prayerful thoughtful feedback. I'm just going to kind of give it a a nod right now, since I'm talking about it. But but this person wrote and said, often, I don't feel like my art, my music, my words are overtly beautiful. They reflect struggle or anger or depression at times. And this art can be maybe therapeutic or authentic. How should have balladeer control self expression? Being conscious of how it might be perceived and culture? What's the relationship between self expression and being God centered? So I'm going to pose that out in the community.
We will be doing a week long retreats at Darrow and Maryland's house on that question. Well, first of all, I think what the question brings up is, when we say beautiful, we don't necessarily mean greedy Yeah, we don't mean I don't mean Britney is not beautiful. I mean, you know, someone who's pretty beautiful. But what we mean is, you know, true I'm reflecting reality, reflecting God's truth and reality and design, agreeing with God is beautiful. And so when I hear what you say, it sounds beautiful, you know, when when we see, we just did a production last weekend called Book of Kells. And there's human sacrifice in the production. Because in Scotland before Christianity hit, they were sacrificing their teenage children to the gods, in hopes that their crops would do better. So it was very ugly and disturbing to watch. Now, the end of the show, it ends on an up, but when it comes, so the first question is beautiful on it, just because something is not pretty, or happy does not mean it's, it isn't beautiful. Because you might be like you mentioned the word depression, let's say you're creating something that acknowledges their pride, depression, or explores how burdensome it is, and how deep it can go and how oppressive depression can be for people that might produce a very beautiful results. And that someone might come and see that and identify like, I'm not alone. So taking something dark, like depression, temptation doesn't mean it's not beautiful, I think probably the question would be, and sometimes it's a fine line, does it, glorify it because it make depression cool. Hollywood loves to make artists, artists who build themselves romantic, it's horrible. There's no reflection on on how the artists world led to someone's suicide, for example. So that's not good. We don't want to see suicide, or five. So that's kind of the beginning maybe of an answer to your question is that we draw our definition of beauty and from the Bible, and it's always acknowledging, hey, well, I know who you are, you know. And then I would add one other thing, which is that the body of Christ is so important. As an artist, your role may be to expose, let's say, depression in our culture, and make it something that people will talk about it opened up, and it might be, you know, someone else's role to talk about the hope that Christ brings to those who are depressed. That makes sense, like one artist can't do everything. That's just the beginning of a very big question.
I think that was the start of an amazing answer. Thank you. Well, alright, so I'm just gonna read it, a couple of others. And, you know, one, you know, I mean, they were just so inspired about your connection with the community, the Culture House, through the arts. And and a question would be, how did you overcome any negative pushback from churches? If you've experienced any of
them? Yeah, so Mona actually had when she was young, and people writing the veteran, this church newsletter, why are we supporting this rah rah rah rah rah rah. And in her case, her pastor would defend them, because he's the one that started everything rolling. So it says fault. I think that's where you do need community. We have to have you have to have support doesn't mean that you're the pastor of your church, understand what you do. But you have to have solid people who are no, no Lord, and who get who you are and what you're trying to do and encourage you, even if fellow Christians come after you. Because like, you know, we've had a very fortunate time, but we always we had a growing group around us supporting us and we just kind of ignored
it's very frustrating at times, you know, because you expect I pay these are our brothers and sisters in the Lord and you know, quite an extent. But I think it also kind of forced us to get out there and not to see our main you know, audience Do you like that was?
Yeah, it was helpful. And I think that we I think that and once again, this is a human problem, not just a Christian problem. So maybe part of the answer is that is the question is, should you expect Christians to be nice to you all the time? And I think the answer is no. Because I think when I go to church, I really have no idea. All the people sitting in the pews where they're at spiritually, right. But there's this false idea that if I go to church, everyone's a Christian. And it's just not true. We don't know where people are at in their development when we go to church. And so if I go in the world, I'm going to face jealousy and the verbal attacks, etc. And when I go to church, I'm going to face jealousy and the personal attacks. The difference is that at church, we're supposed to find a way to overcome those things. So I can go to the person and and ask them why they said that, and that Christ will bring us together and bring forgiveness. So the difference in the two spaces is that in church, we have a kingdom reality to we have a god to go to and say help us overcome this. And in the world, it's just chaos. And and it's, there's no rules, I can attack you, and it's fine. So maybe part of the answer is to change your change one's expectations of church environments.
There's one thing though, and that is that a lot of people have to see it to the way that they might have a completely like, they think it's something else that was not, and people who maybe were dragged up there to see what you have become. And then when they see it, they're like, oh, my gosh, I had no idea. I didn't know what's going to be good. Right? You know,
they said that, or we went the first church. We went to Darrow, when we moved to Kansas City, after six months, we had people come up to us and say, Oh, they heard we were dancers. And they said, Oh, you're a Christian. We thought you were strippers. And we were like, now we're not strippers. And so they thought we were not Christian that we had stumbled into the church. And we were strippers. And we're like, No, we're not strippers. And you know what? We got free prayer for six months.
Funny, funny, okay, I'm gonna share a few comments, maybe share my screen if I can successfully. Some encouraging feedback from Ken Scott, who just says, Hey, this has been so encouraging and inspiring to know a group that's working so successfully within the arts toward community gives me hope and courage to move out in similar ways. So he's looking forward to connecting with you all, thank you for sharing what the Lord has done. And amazingly, he's been in ministry related to the arts and missions for 27 years.
So yeah, guys would have a lot to talk about. Yeah. Yeah, we're not bored.
And I thought, but there's, yeah, there's always so much going on in people's lives. It's exciting. I wish we can hear from everyone and what they're doing. Yeah.
Another listener said, you know, just love what you all are doing and and really inspired by you're not demanding an outcome from God, you know, there can be such a temptation to, to come in and and demand that a certain outcome or try and control an outcome, and then just really appreciated that as you share. So yeah, thank you for that. I'm gonna share my screen if I can. Let's see. Can you see my screen? There's my calendar. Yep. Most of you all probably saw this email come through inviting you. And so at the bottom is where we talked about this community. I'm going to come back to that in just a minute. But on our Balladeers page, if you go to a call for balladeers.com, you're going to come to this page. There's a link to the book on why wham publishing also on Amazon. I do want to highlight this amazon link for one reason, and that is, we are so happy we've got two ratings so far. But that means we want more ratings. So please, I know you guys are so enthusiastic about the book. We want Help others know about this great resource. So please take your time to share to come on here and share those ratings on Amazon. Yeah, and it doesn't have to be fancy, it can be a few words, it can be, you know, you can get fancy, but don't talk yourself out of doing it because you didn't have something long or you know, a lot of time to put into it. Um, and
I want to thank you so much for responding. So quickly to put your review up there.
You're welcome. It was a pleasure to do honor.
We are looking to have another event five weeks from now. So if you want, you can mark your schedule. It's going to be on Tuesday, April 25. It's going to be the same time. And we're excited to have Colin Harbinson featured in that. And so some of you may know him already a long time cross between the arts world, the mission world worldview, and not new to any of those fields. So we're excited to have him feature in five weeks. Derek, do you want to say a word about that? Or you're just
No, I've just I've known Colin for years. And was amazed when I met him to find his the intersection of his life between those three things, missions worldview and the arts. And this is what he's lived. He's my age. So you know, we've lived most longer than most of the people on this cast today. So you'll enjoy him.
On this call, also, we have Theresa Jansen, she's on there. And Jen Turner is also on there. They are the masterminds behind what was abundance writing community and is now Christian creative community, we're so grateful for them for opening up this space, where we can join with other valid years who recognize that ideas have consequences, consequences and cultural changes necessary at the level of worldview. So once you sign up for your free access and account, I just want you to see, you know what it might be what it might look like, it really is a beautiful platform. Here's a post that I shared last week, and Theresa and Rob and I were chatting back and forth about it. There's a Balladeers group that you can check out. But you don't have to be limited to that group, feel free to spill over to other areas, you can edit your profile and, you know, give yourself some descriptions here. I hope that you will take the time to put in an interest, I maybe don't fit in the interest categories as much as some of the others to but maybe one of these, you can also create your own if, if one of those isn't a match for you. So I'm in the community right now, if you write something in there, it's going to dang on my phone and I'm going to start writing back. You can private message, people who are in there, you can see who's online who's near you, who has similar interests, and you can send some messages. So feel free to do that. And we're looking forward to seeing you over in that space. Yes, question comment?
I have one question. This is Lee. For more now. More now when you when you think about dance as a program for college age students. Normally we think about size, particularly in America success, volume numbers, and thinking, smallness. How small can you go and have a vibrant program for college aged students in dance?
You mean as far as creating a program for students?
Yeah, for 10 students 25 I'm just looking at what kind of community do you need to have saw that is lively and vibrant?
I would say out of it experienced that with teaching you know different classes. I would say that you I believe you have to have like five or six people. You know if there's only like two or Three people, you know, there's this energy in the room,
right? And then you're limited to the kind of pieces you can create and that they, they can learn from doing.
Okay. Can you repeat the range? I missed? The numbers that you call it.
Five or six. Okay. Well, that's small.
Yeah, that's small. Maybe 1015 is a bit more robust.
15 would be good. Our program, our college program is very small right now. There's like six students. But we just started that we just started that. The other thing if it's small, you do want to limit your curriculum, as well, so that they learned something. You can't spread yourself so thin. When you're teaching classes, they all have to be together.
Right. Thank you.
Thanks, Darrow any closing comments, I'd love for Jeremiah and Mona to close out our time in prayer, if they'd be willing to do that. But any any words from you, sir,
it's good to have this group together. I'm so encouraged by the people we have on to, to share and the interaction with them. I think this is a from my point of view, just a precious time. And I pray that as we interact, we will all learn and grow and see the kingdom of God expand. So thank you all for joining us. And Mona or Jeremiah, which you're close.
We're just so grateful for this group of people together today. And it's so exciting work to see how you are we're have all over the world. And you are equipping your people and I just want to bless everybody who has been on this call to expand their work that you would help them to find other Christians look at and he was with a big and have a community with a feel encouraged by strengthened by. And we just pray Lord, for Your level of Spirit to lead you to each of the things that are going on. And you would expand your workload and love your work and go out and bless the world. Users love you
man. Oh, man. Stay all in a few weeks. Thank you, Darrow. And we're on on this other channel now. Fam. Yeah. Yeah.
As much as anybody wants to log in there. That'd be a great place to continue conversation and questions.